Advent Intergenerational Event – Year C

By November 13, 2015Blog, Christian Education Archive

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The beginning of Advent is a wonderful time to gather the whole church family together to learn and celebrate together the beginning of a brand new church year and begin to anticipate and prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.

Intentional inter-generational events are among the best activities a church can have to help all of our members grow in faith and in faithful relationships across all ages. When we share our rich stories of faith with each other we help our younger members learn from those they look up to and provide opportunities for our older members to experience anew the wonder and awe of our children. Together we build meaningful cross-generational relationships that lead to life-long faith formation.

This Intergenerational Event has been designed to not only provide and opportunity for faith sharing and learning, but also to provide resources for all of our families to continue to learn and worship together at home through the ritual of lighting an advent candle each day of advent and doing age-appropriate family devotions together. Together the congregation will share in a meal, learn about the history and practice of advent, get to know each other a little more, make an family advent wreath to take home, be supplied with an advent devotional booklet, and practice the ritual of lighting the wreath, reading and praying as a family at the event so they’re ready to carry it on day-by-day as a family when they get home.

This event is designed to happen on the first Sunday of Advent following worship or in the evening, or on a weeknight during the week before Advent. Here’s what your Advent Event could look like:

Share with a Meal (45 minutes) A potluck meal makes it easy for everyone. You may wish to ask families to bring a seasonal family favorite. Is there a food they always eat when they decorate the tree? wrap presents? have extended family members over? You may wish to put on some hot apple cider or hot chocolate for everyone to enjoy the scents of the season. Whatever works for you church with the emphasis on easy and enjoyable.

Invite families to sit together at this meal, but make sure a broad cross-section of ages are represented at each dining table. Decorate the tables festively and place some discussion cards on each table with fun Christmas questions such as: What is your favorite Christmas carol? What was the best Christmas gift you ever received and why? What is your favorite Christmas cookie and who makes it? Who’s coming for Christmas this year? What do like to eat at Christmas? Encourage tables to get to know each other a little more through these questions and chat about Christmas’ past and the joy each has brought.

Intro to Advent (10 – 20 minutes depending on the age of the group) While everyone is still at their tables take some time to introduce the theme of Advent to the group. Rather than delivering a lecture on Advent you might want to pick some of the more interesting points about Advent an print one point per piece of construction paper, cut each piece of construction paper into a 6 – 8 piece jigsaw puzzle, and place each jigsaw puzzle into an individual envelope. Distribute the envelopes of puzzles to the table groups and have them assemble their puzzles to discover exciting things about Advent for themselves. Have each group share what they have learned with the whole group.

Here are some interesting things to know about Advent:

  • Advent is the beginning of the church year
  • Advent means ‘to come’
  • Advent begins four Sundays prior to Christmas
  • During Advent we ready ourselves for the birth of Christ, the coming of Christ into our lives, and for the return of Christ
  • Advent is season of expectation, anticipation, preparation
  • Advent was originally a season of penitence and has become a season of joy and celebration in modern times
  • The colour of Advent is either purple or blue, depending on the congregation’s choice
  • The bible is filled with references to Christ as the light of the world. We light Advent candles to remind us that Christ is coming as light and as the number of lit candles increases as we get closer to Christmas we see that the light is growing brighter week by week
  • The evergreens of the advent wreath represent life and growth
  • The circle of the Advent wreath have no beginning and no end, as Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end
  • The four coloured candles of the Advent wreath represent the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy (sometimes represented by the colour pink) and Love.

Make An Advent Wreath (30 minutes) Each household should make an Advent wreath together to take home with them. The instructions for a beautiful and easy, fresh Advent wreath are included in this file. If there are  families who might want to make more than one wreath, they might make additional wreathes for shut-ins.

Worship Together (15 minutes) As families begin to complete their wreaths gather the whole group together and distribute the Advent devotional booklets included in this file. Explain that Advent is a wonderful time to begin a new family tradition together and that lighting the advent candles and reading scripture/stories together is a wonderful ritual to bring into their homes. As a whole group complete the first day of Advent devotions as it is written in the devotion booklet. You may wish to include a couple of Advent hymns to you worship.

Thank the families for attending and remind them to repeat the devotion that evening and continue through their devotional booklets at a consistent time each day.

Click here for instructions on making an Advent wreath

When you open this file it will appear out-of-order. The file has been saved for you to print and then photocopy back-to-back, assemble, and then fold and staple as a booklet down the middle. You can also also print the booklet 2-sided, fold and staple as a booklet down the middle.

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A Child Speaks about Church

Reposted from NEXT Church blog

This fall, in addition to sharing reflections on “what is saving your ministry right now?”, NEXT Church is also bringing back some of their most popular posts over the last couple of years. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

This post on children in church is one of our most popular posts in the history of the NEXT Church blog. We’ve updated it slightly below in hopes it becomes a fresh resource as you look towards December.

By Steve Lindsley and Lynn Turnage

Hey.child reading bible small

HEY!

Down here….

Yes, thanks.  Hello.  It’s me.  I’m a kid in your church. Nice to meet you.

I’m sure you’ve seen me before.  I’m the one who sits with my family in front of you in worship every Sunday. Remember that blur you saw running around the fellowship hall at the church potluck dinner last week?  Yours truly.  I sang a stellar solo in the children’s choir last month; I’m sure you remember.

Anyway, now that I have your attention, I thought I’d share with you what I need from the church.  Because there are a whole lot of ideas out there about what kids need to grow in the faith and stick with the church when we become grown-ups ourselves.  Thing is, no one’s bothering to ask us kids what we think.  So here are some thoughts to ponder:

Just tell me the Bible story.  I know it sounds simple enough, but it’s amazing how complicated this can get.  Honestly, I don’t need gimmicks, flash, fluff.  If I want entertainment I’ll ask my parents to take me to the movies.  I don’t need a Vacation Bible School that “takes me on an Amazon expedition” or involves surfing, camping or clowns.  And please, don’t let some random B-rate Bible cartoon video do it for you.  I want you to tell me the Bible story. You. Me. The Bible. That’s it.

Remember: I can’t sit still for long.  I know, shocker.  Don’t blame me; God made me this way.  Anyway, just make your story-telling segments a little shorter and cut to the chase, and help me experience the story with as many of my senses as possible.  And when it comes to worship,  give me something to do – “worship bags” with chenille sticks, or some paper or mandalas and good crayons or markers would be great (although I’d suggest changing them out frequently so I’m not coloring the same picture of Jesus every week).

Give me, at the bare minimum, an hour a month with the pastor.  This would be awesome. Because sometimes it feels like you all think that I’m too little or too young for the pastor.  Which is just silly, if you ask me (see: scripture on Jesus and the children).  So give me time with him or her.  Let them tell me a Bible story or take me on a nature walk or just have doughnuts with me.  You tell me all the time how important the pastor is. Well, I’m important too; so it’d be the perfect match, right?

My best adult teachers/leaders/volunteers are the ones that I KNOW care about me.  Makes sense.  Because they’re not there out of some sense of obligation, or because they were guilted into it by a desperate teacher recruitment committee member.  They’re there because they want to be there, because they genuinely like me.  And because they like me, they tell the stories better, play the games better, teach better. So I learn more.  And I make an adult friend too.  Because I really like it when someone calls me by name and says “HI!”  The don’t have to comment on how cute I look, just call my name in a nice voice.

Give me some responsibility in the church. See, here’s the thing: you expect me to be a bystander in church until I hit some age (18? 22?) when voila!, I’m suddenly supposed to dive in and do everything.  Honestly, that’s silly.  If you want me to grow up committed to and participating in the life of the church, you need to empower me to do that now.  I’d make a great usher on Sunday morning.  I know I could help serve food at the weekly homeless meal if you’d be there to help me.

I like to be with my family and all ages together in worship.  There’s this tradition a lot of churches have in worship of escorting the kids out to some remote location following the “Children’s Time.”  Personally, I’m not a fan.  You think I don’t want to be in worship during the sermon because it’s “boring.” I actually listen to what they say and it sticks with me – as you are well aware in other contexts, I’m great at remembering everything you adults say.  All things being equal, I’d rather stay in worship with my church family – we call ourselves a family, right?  I might get a little antsy (worship bags will help).  But I promise you I won’t fall asleep like that dude in front of me every week.  Surely you’ve seen him.

So that’s it, I guess.  Mainly just focus on telling the story and letting that be the focus.  If you do that, I have a pretty good feeling I’ll stick around in church for a long time.


Steve Lindsley is the Senior Pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC.  Lynn Turnage is Director of Children and Family Ministries at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC.

Looking for more? Check out the resources below from NEXT:

Thanksgiving All Year: 11 Ideas for Teaching Children Gratitude

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“Put popcorn in the microwave and have children shout out something for which each child is grateful when you hear the sound of the kernels popping!”

 

Teaching Gratitude
Practicing gratitude and thanks-giving makes you a happier person. What people of faith have known for generations now has the stamp of approval from therapists who heal with mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. The researchers at Greater Good Science Center study emotional and emotional well-being – the science of a meaningful life. Their studies show that feeling grateful motivates students to help others and use their strengths to contribute to society. Gratitude does good!

It takes intentional modeling to teach thankfulness. Notice the thought behind an action or gift; appreciate the cost of an action, and the value of other people in our lives. One way of modeling this last gratitude lesson is to spend time how one person’s action influences those around them: “My day (or life) is better because…” An example of this might be, “My day is better when everyone says ‘hello’ when they walk in the door.”

Here you’ll find some ideas for practicing gratitude in the Sunday school classroom, children’s chapel, and in the home.

1. Create a Space for Thanks
Designate a gratitude area in the home or classroom which has a variety of paper, pens and markers, index cards, and tape. Use it as a place for some of the ideas in this list as well as a place to write quick thank you notes. Over time it can be decorated with a candle, items from nature, and other surprise blessings.

2. Carry Scripture Passages on Gratitude
Look up all the references to offering thanks (practicing gratitude) from the Bible. Write down the passages on small pieces of paper, and put them in a jar. Pull one out every day to carry around, savor, and memorize.

3. The “Best Thing” Game
Play “the best thing about” game. Think of a person, a situation, a place, and take turns saying things like “The best thing about my church is the music we sing.”  To help spark ideas, get a pack of wide, wooden sticks, and write down people’s names, places, pets, etc.  Place the sticks in a decorative jar, keeping it in a place where the family or children gather.  Draw one stick out for each time you play the game.

4. Make a Thankfulness Window
Start a stained glass gratitude window each month or season. Tear up pieces of different colored tissue paper, keep them in a basket or a box, and have children write down something they are grateful for on each piece of paper and tape them to a window that gets lots of sun. Watch the window’s design evolve over time. (If the idea of scraping off all that tape is not something for which you’ll feel grateful – use wax paper over the window!)

5. Create a Gratitude Newspaper
Become the editor of you own paper: the Thanksgiving News. Write the date, draw a picture, and write down the news of the day from the point of view of being grateful.  Post these news items and watch the gratitude grow over time. This could be done with scrap paper, large post-its, a magnet or chalk board, or if you have the space, with markers on a wall painted with white board paint.

6. Say Goodbye to Some “Stuff”
Rather than discard “good” clutter, designate one day a month for the family to toss thing which have served you well, but you don’t need any more. Put them all together, say a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing. List them on a site like Freecycle or put them on the street with a sign that says “Free.”

7. Giving Thanks with Popcorn!
Put popcorn in the microwave and have children shout out something for which each child is grateful when you hear the sound of the kernels popping. Keep going until the popping stops.

8. Show Gratitude for Good and the Bad…
Model gratitude even for not-so-good things: Thank you for the dog eating my favorite slippers.  (Remember, this is practicing. You don’t have to totally feel it to practice it.)

9. Make Blessing Cards 
These are lovely using gold or silver metallic pens on black or red paper. Write down a blessing – any good wish or deed – for another family member or classmate. Tuck the card in a pocket or under a pillow as a surprise.

10. Create a Gratitude Song Book
Take a simple thanksgiving or seasonal hymn such as “Tis the Gift to Be Simple” or “For the Beauty of the Earth” and make a picture book from the lyrics. You can download images from online, draw pictures yourself, or use family photographs.

11. Capture it on Film
On Thanksgiving, or whenever the extended family is gathered, consider taking annual photos or videos. Create and album and share it with family at your next gathering. Or consider videotaping an interview with the oldest person there.


 

Brook Packard is a musician, singer, and songwriter in addition to many other creative endeavors. Her faith formation curricula and songs can be found at The Calendar Song website. She is the author of the forth coming book, When the Bishop Comes to Visit: An Activity Book for All Ages.  Learn more about Brook at her website

Advent in a Box

Reposted from Vibrant Faith at Home by Emily Given on November 13th, 2015

Advent in a Box

“Advent in a Box was designed to provide faith at home resources to support, love, and connect families where and when they need it most.”

 

Why Advent in a Box?
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, families are spread thin. At Saint Michael’s and All Angels in Dallas Texas, we try to support and bolster households, without adding to the burden families feel. While time spent at church is precious, it is never enough to convey the wonder, mystery, and importance of the Christmas story. That’s where the home comes in.

Advent in a Box was designed to provide faith at home resources to support, love, and connect families where and when they need it most. That means: at home, on the go – wherever!  We hope that families will open the box with delight and think, “We can do this. We can hold back some of the Christmas crazy, and spend a few special moments together on the real purpose of the season.”

What’s in the Box?
This is the second year we have offered this resource to the parish.  The first year, families selected items “salad bar” style during the annual Advent Family Fair.  This year, we have put together boxes that will be distributed on Sunday mornings throughout the church building.

This box of treats and treasures includes a variety of Advent activities. We aim for variety, with items that are reflective and active, silent and silly, individual and group-oriented. In general, the boxes are geared for families with elementary-aged children. Each item has an explanatory sticker, and the box itself is labeled with a description of Advent. (See the picture at the end of this post)

Advent in a Box

Items in our Advent Box

Paper Advent calendar (click here to view/download)

Paper Advent wreath – can be colored in (click here to view/download)

Tea light candles (click here for suggested purchase site)

Magnetic Advent wreath with magnetic candles – perfect for the car! (click here to purchase)

Christmas story cubes to help children tell the nativity (click here to purchase)

“Flat Michael” page for folks to bring with them out and about and (click here to download)

Prayer bookmarks for households (click here to purchase from Faith Inkubators)

Advent puzzle

Glow stick (reminder to let your light shine!)

Sticky notes to share “God loves you” messages with family and friends

Christmas tree ornament of Jesus in manger (click here to purchase)

Advent Music (SMAA offers a list of suggested inspirational songs – some old, some new – for households to download/purchase on their own.)

Playlist:
Blessed – Brett Dennen
Life in Letters – Lucy Schwartz
We Will Be Changed – Seryn
More Love – Dixie Chicks
Go Tell it On The Mountain – The Branches
Lanterns – Birds of Tokyo
The Outsiders – Needtobreathe
Nothing More – Alternate Routes
Wherever Is Your Heart – Brandi Carlile
Brother – The Brilliance
Silent Night
Take Up Your Spade – Sara Watkins

square take two

 


Emily Given is the Director of Children and Family Ministry at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas. Emily has worked on both the congregational and diocesan level for over 15 years. She is a mixed media artist and the author of Building Faith Brick by Brick: An Imaginative Way to Explore the Bible With Children

Thanksgiving: Looking Back Activity

Promoting thankfulness in our youth – from Creative Youth Ideas by Ken & Josh

Thanksgiving is an American Holiday where people set aside a day to remember what God has done for them over the past year and praise and thank God for the works done in their lives. This game plays on the idea of looking forward yet being able to recognize and picture what is behind. It serves as a metaphor for us, also looking forward to the future, but taking some time to picture and recognize what God has done in the past.

What You Need:

* A variety of simple images related to the Thanksgiving. Some possibilities include a turkey, a pumpkin, a pie, an Indian, fall leaves, the Mayflower ship, pilgrims, etc. You can also use simple greeting cards for the design or images from a Children’s coloring book.

* Paper and something for youth to write with.

How to play the Game –

Form teams of six people.

  1. Instruct each team to sit in a line, one person behind another, and take a vow of silence for the duration of the game.
  2. Give the first person in each line a pencil and a piece of paper.
  3. Then show the last person in each line a simple image of a Thanksgiving object.
  4. That person must use his or her finger to draw the object on the back of the person in front of him or her.
  5. This continues until the drawing reaches the first person in line. He or she must draw it on the piece of paper.
  6. Have judges determine which team’s picture closest resembles the original picture.
  7. If time permits, play more rounds, letting team members change positions if they wish.

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TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

MAKE IT SPIRITUAL – In this game, we looked forward but had to recognise things that were behind us. Sometimes it is difficult to look back and recognise God’s handiwork when we are focused only on what is in front of us. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to look back, and recognise what God has done for us, praise and thank God for working in our lives.

In Deuteronomy 8: 10-18 the Israelites were also reminded to look back at what God had done for them.

“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.”

* List some of the things mentioned in the passage that the Israelites were to praise God for? Were they all pleasant things?

* What lessons can we learn from this passage?

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What to do – An optional Illustration

Ask the youth to look around the room and take notice of everything in the room that is red. (You can use any color here as long as there are things in the room of that color) 2. Then ask the youths to close their eyes and name something in the room that is yellow. (Again pick any color that can be found in the room) 3. Most will be unable to name something unless they are wearing that color.

It doesn’t mean that the color did not exist when they were looking around, but the way our minds work, when we focus on something specific, we have a hard time recognising anything else.

The lesson is that if we are always looking at all the negative things in our lives and all of our problems (the red color) we will probably miss all the things to be thankful for (the yellow color).

MAKE IT PRACTICAL

* Why is it important to Thank and Praise God for what he has done for us in the past?

* What does the passage in Deuteronomy 8 says about why it is important?

MAKE IT PERSONAL

* Ask God to help you to examine your life – help you to see all the times God has worked in your life.

* What has God done in your life today and then what has God done this week? This month? Write down a list of everything God’s done in your life during the past year.

* Ask the youth to share some things they have received from God or that God has done for them during the past year?

* What event(s) in your life do you look back on as special evidence of God’s love and care for you?

* Spend some moments in prayer, praising and thanking God for working in your life.

* Ask the youth to keep the list of blessings made during the lesson, take it home, and place it in a drawer or on a mirror where it will be seen often and add to it from time to time.

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ADDITIONAL SCRIPTURE

“Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced” – 1 Chronicles 16:8-12

Christmas Pageant Ideas, Tips, and Scripts

Reposted from BuildingFaith.org

Christmas Pageant Costume Patterns

“Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere! Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!”

Preparing for the Pageant
Does your church offer a Christmas pageant? Whether you worship in a large or small community; lots of people or just a few – there is an option out there for you. Some Christmas pageants are full-scale productions. Participants are invited to plan and rehearse, working toward a long-term goal. Other Christmas pageants are smaller, proving that one can dramatize the Nativity story with a handful of costumes, props, and a willing set of actors.

At Building Faith, we’ve written a lot about Christmas pageants. Below you will find several helpful articles for inspiration and practical tips. In addition, we’ve assembled six free Christmas pageant scripts that you can use or adapt. Finally, you’ll find a link to professionally written scripts you can purchase for a small amount.

Christmas Pageant Articles from Building Faith

angel pageantIn Defense of the “Big” Christmas Pageant by Donald Schell
At St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco, they have been doing a full-scale pageant for years. The event includes dozens of actors and lots of preparation. Donald describes the many blessings and benefits of a “big” pageant. Even if this is not for your church, you’ll enjoy this article.
angel pageantChristmas Pageant Rehearsals and Commitments by Donald Schell
This is part II of the Donald’s post on “big” pageants. He offers practical advice for encouraging commitment to the pageant process. Setting reasonable, but firm expectations is the key.
Sheep Christmas pageantTips for a “Medium” Christmas Pageant by Tina Clark
Many churches offers a pageant with multiple parts, lines, and costumes. This may not seem like a huge production, but careful planning and at least one rehearsal is needed. In this article, Tina answers basic questions like, “Baby doll or real baby for Jesus?” This is a must read.

shepherd boy Christmas FLICKROn-the-spot Christmas Pageant by Sharon Ely Pearson
Looking for something on the no-rehearsal end of the spectrum? Sharon explains how to take a few props and willing folks, and bring out the wonder of the Christmas story.

Angels Jesus girls Christmas pageantWhy We Need Christmas Pageants by Lisa Brown
The drama unfolds, and everyone has a role to play. Lisa describes how pageants bring us all to Bethlehem. The actors, singers, readers, and those who sit and watch, hanging on every word.
Christmas Pageant Scripts
Permission is granted to use these in your church. You may alter them slightly, as needed. Please do not re-publish or sell them.

Christmas Pageant – Matthew Kozlowski (word doc)
This script is for a 10-15 pageant in the “no rehearsal” tradition. (Of course, a rehearsal is needed for the narrator and musicians.) You provide costumes and props, and offer them to children as they arrive. The children sit in the congregation until their ‘part’ comes, and each group goes up front together (shepherds, angels, stars, etc). Multiple carols provide the breaks for the actors to travel and assemble. Every line of this script except one is spoken by the narrator, and the text comes directly from the Gospels.

Best for: A service where you expect a lot of kids, but you don’t know how many/what ages.

Christmas Pageant – Charlotte Greeson (word doc)
This church did a pageant on Epiphany, but the script includes the full Nativity story, and works perfectly for Christmas. Similar to the above script, it is a basic pageant with lines from Scripture, all spoken by a narrator. Music is interspersed. It begins with the words of the prophet Isaiah. There is a lovely introduction and conclusion to frame the entire pageant.

Best for: A small/medium cast of actors, with time for short run-through or rehearsal.

Christmas Pageant – Sharon Ely Pearson (pdf)
Another simple pageant, but instead of just a narrator, there are lines for multiple parts. Of course, the lines are very short. The words are from scripture, but nicely condensed and simply phrased. (Note from Sharon: the words Him and His may be changed to God or God’s.)

Best for: A short pageant with a medium cast of actors. Children or adults who like to speak lines. 

Three Full-length Scripts from St. Gregory of Nyssa
These are longer scripts with numerous parts, lots of lines, and plenty of humor. Please provide full attribution and credit to St. Gregory’s.

Full-length Pageant Scripts from Skiturgies
These are well-written, full-length pageant scripts, published professionally and sold at low prices. Many of the pageants have creative twists, interesting themes, and terrific lines. If you are looking to spice up your pageant, this is the resource for you.